Sunday, July 23, 2017

How Theories Get Started – Part I

It is always interesting to see how theories get started and then build and sometimes grow into uncontrollable ideas like a forest fire sweeping across the hills. Often there is no rhyme or reason for the theory in the first place, but for some reason, the glaring knowledge of why it could not be possible is ignored and shoved aside with hopes no one will discover that knowledge—or the researchers or writers are just too lazy to do their due diligence to see if the idea could possibly fit the facts and reality.
Take Orson Pratt's theory of Lehi landing just south of Panamaas he stated: “For some who read the Book of Mormon, with maps of the Western Hemisphere in view, the Isthmus of Panama seems an easy fit for the Book of Mormon’s “narrow neck of land” [and the] “running battle,” culminating in the destruction of the Nephite nation, started at “the Isthmus of Darien” (Panama) and “ended at Manchester” (western New York).” He never attributed his beliefs to Joseph Smith or inspiration or anything other than his opinion, yet the theory grew in shape and size over the following years.
    While persisting for some time, the eventual modern theorists began to narrow that scope somewhat. As one recent theorist claims: “I could have started off by studying existing research, but I deliberately avoided doing so, because I wanted to come to my own conclusions without being influenced by other people’s ideas.” Trouble is, he should have done some research, for he places the city and Land of Bountiful right in the middle of the Darien Gap rainforest jungle, an area almost impossible to pass through, let alone build in. He also states: “Mapping the events in the Book of Mormon does involve a lot of guesswork. But we can figure out quite a lot through a process of deductive reasoning.”
    The problem is, no amount of deductive reasoning is going to change five all-important and critical facts:
1. The area where Panama and Colombia join, where the Isthmus of Panama joins South America, is the most difficult, dangerous, and impassable rain-forest jungle known anywhere in the world, called the Darien Gap;
2. This Gap is about 100 miles across and 60-80 miles long, is uninhabited, and has been a block of modern advancement in the area since the Spanish first arrived in 1501;
Pan American highway ends at Yaviza with such jungle between Yavisa and Columbia that the only way to get to Columbia is by boat or airplane

3. The Pan-American Highway, which covers about 19,000 miles, stretching from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to Ushuala, Argentine (Tierra del Fuego) at the tip of South America, connecting 21 different countries, has never been built through this Darien Gap—with early highway builders between 1923 and 1950 finding no way to bridge this jungle, and modern technology unable to close the Gap, thus leaving the Central America and South America disconnected;
4. The Gap is not inhabitable, modern-equipped groups with the latest equipment cannot find a way to get through it, with no roads and most travel accomplished by river boats riding the strong flowing currents;
5. During the six-month rainy season the Gap is completely flooded; the heat, humidity and plant life destroying anything in its path the other six months of the year; and rivers keep travel even on the fringes down to a minimum.
In this day and age it is difficult to imagine that there is a place on Earth where a road cannot be built, where transportation of any kind is not possible, and where even foot traffic does not exist for passage from one end to the other

Battling this Gap, more than 2,000 Scottish colonists perished from malaria and starvation in the last decade of the 17th century, and in 1854 numerous explorers died from disease and exposure on a U.S. Navy survey expedition, stopping plans for a grand canal project through the isthmus.
    While explorers and adventurers occasionally brave the outer fringe regions of the Gap and its wall of dark, unruly jungle, few go into the Gap, though some have tried to brave defeat the jungle, but the area is strewn with failure after failure, especially where off-road vehicles were attempted and left behind to rot because of their inability to make it through.
Today, not even the most experienced adventurers would consider going into the Gap without GPS, compass, decent maps, spot locator, sat phone, good field tested equipment and first aid kit. A few 4-wheel vehicles have tried the journey, and even a motorcycle or two, but few have ever made it through this area called this 10,000-square-mile rectangle of swamp, mountains, and rainforest the most dangerous jungle in the World. The first vehicular crossing was achieved in 1960 by a Jeep and Land Rover expedition, averaging  about one mile per hour over 136 days. 
Even motorcycling through was nearly impossible as numerous adventurers learned. For if the natural barriers don’t stop you, or the mud and impassable terrain, trying to float your bike downriver, typically results in being rescued by someone with a boat to pull you out

It would be impossible for modern technology to build a city that could keep the jungle from encroaching and overrunning it, let alone the Nephites building a city of Bountiful and others in the area around the time of Christ which this theory claims.

 The Darien Gap is a remote, roadless swath of jungle on the border of Panama and Colombia, largely untouched by the modern world, and is one of the least visited places on the planet
Yet, this theory persists!
    The same can be said for the Great Lakes Theory, for example. Despite the fact that the Hill Cumorah where Joseph Smith obtained the plates, not much else about the area in Western New York fits the reality of Mormon’s extensive descriptions of the Land of Promise. As we have mentioned many times, the one simple point about no mountains being anywhere in the entire area of New York that would qualify for Samuel the Lamanite’s prophecy, which the Lord put in his heart to say to the Nephites of Zarahemla, regarding that at the time of the Savior’s death there would be valleys that would turn into mountains “whose height is great,” is simply ignored by all these Great Lakes theorists as though it was never said, even though the Lord, himself, said it was to be an example of his power and existence that could not be denied (Helaman 14:23).
    It is not just that mountains would rise, “whose height is great” that do not exist anywhere in the entire proposed Land of Promise, we also learn that there were mountains already in existence in the Land of Promise that would disappear, “mountains tumbling into pieces” as Nephite tells us (1Nephi 12:4) and becoming valleys: “there shall be many valleys laid low, like unto a valley” (Helaman 14:23). Now the interesting point of this regarding the Great Lakes area, and if you have not driven through western New York, you ought to do so because this problem is really borne out, and that is there never have been mountains in this area. In fact, as stated in geological terms as found in the Western NY Genesee County Magazine, and the Western Museum and Science Center: “The abundance of fossilized corals in some regional rock formations confirms that most of Western New York was once covered by a warm, shallow sea. Abundant corals and shelled animals were the basis of sedimentary rock, the bedrock that lies beneath the region's pastoral scenes.”
(See the next post, “How Theories Get Started – Part II,” to see how theories become entrenched in our daily thinking without their necessarily being consistent with the scriptural record, but simply someone’s personal and speculative viewpoint)

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